Beer is the oldest known alcoholic beverage and it is estimated to have been produced for over 7000 years. The first beer is thought to have been created when bread, rich in starch and sugars, fermented in the presence of water and strains of wild yeasts. Modern brewery techniques were predominantly developed in monasteries during the middle ages and the most notable technical advances in the industrialisation of the brewery process took place during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the brewery industry is a multi-national business with a turnover in the billions. China is currently the major producer.
Beer originally consisted of yeast, water and starch in different forms, mainly malt but also wheat, rice and corn. The pleasant properties of hops were discovered towards the end of the first millennium – according to our calendar – and hops are today one of the main ingredients in most types of beer. Other ingredients can include potatoes, spices and sugar. There are many kinds of beer, such as Lambic beer, ale, lager and wheat beer. The manufacturing process is termed brewing. Today, ecological and alcohol-free beers are also being produced.